Lead nurturing is a critical strategy in performance marketing. For higher education institutions, introducing it correctly can be one of the most powerful investments a marketing team can make.
Whether a prospective student is ready to start narrowing down choices between institutions or trying to understand if a program will give them the career jumpstart that they need, building a meaningful relationship is crucial in a highly competitive landscape.
We’ve tested and retested a lot of approaches – and there’s no one way to do it. Our higher education marketing experts, Geoff Roebuck and Jenna Bluedorn, share their insights on what you need to know to build a successful strategy and some of the considerations – from channels through measurement – that you’ll need to make along the way.
If you’re ready to add lead nurturing to your performance marketing playbook, listen to our full podcast, or read on below.
Lead Nurturing for Higher Education Marketing
Seasoned performance marketers in the space focus beyond just generating leads to guiding them through a tailored journey. Lead nurturing is the process of providing valuable information, personalized communication, and support to prospects at every stage of their decision-making process. Here’s how you can master lead nurturing:
Get Personal with Segmentation
Understanding that prospective students have diverse needs and interests is the first step. Segment your leads based on factors such as program interests, demographics, or engagement history. By doing so, you can create highly personalized content and messaging that resonates with each segment.
Test into Multi-Channel Engagement
Successful lead nurturing will include multiple channels. Email marketing is often the easiest to start, but consider the role of social media, personalized website experiences, and even text messages to maintain a consistent and engaging presence. Be where your prospects are and provide a seamless experience across all touchpoints – you’re building trust and telling a story. Remember that channels are highly important to test, and you likely do not need to be present on all possible channels to be effective. The goal is to find the right mix based on your budget and prospective students.
Deliver Tailored, Timely, and Relevant Content
One-size-fits-all content doesn’t cut it in lead nurturing. Create content that speaks directly to the concerns, aspirations, and pain points of each lead segment. This could include program-specific guides, success stories, webinars, or even virtual campus tours. Plan your content to fit your channel strategy.
Timing is also crucial. Use marketing automation tools to send timely follow-ups and reminders. For example, if a lead has downloaded a brochure about a specific program, follow up with additional information or an invitation to a webinar about that subject area.
If there are important dates, such as enrollment or financial aid deadlines, ensure that your prospects have that information with enough time – and supporting resources – to quickly act.
Optimize for Performance, Both Good and Bad
Regularly analyze the performance of your nurturing campaigns. Metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and enrollment rates (or Cost per Enrollment) can provide insights into what’s working and what needs adjustment. Use this data to optimize your content, messaging, and timing for better results. Look for channel effectiveness as far into the enrollment as you can – have these campaigns overall helped your cost per student?
Don’t be afraid to set cut-off metrics: what does failure look like? This way, you avoid two big traps: a “set it and forget it” mindset, and over investing in a project that’s not working. Identify these up front and you’ll be able to pivot quickly.
Set Clear Expectations
Clearly define the goals and expectations for your lead nurturing campaigns. Close collaboration between agency, marketing, and admissions teams is essential to understanding the changing needs of prospects. Regular meetings and feedback loops keep everyone aligned and accountable. What is considered a successful outcome, and what are the thresholds for reevaluating your strategy? Setting expectations ensures alignment across your marketing, admissions, and agency teams.
Three Ways You Can Start Planning a Lead Nurturing Campaign Today:
Outline a Segmentation Strategy:
- Analyze your existing leads based on data you have: programs of interest, locations, stage in the enrollment process, engagement level
- Build lists in your CRM system to reflect these segments – are they too big or too small to effectively nurture?
Audit, Update, & Create Content:
- Map out your existing content against your segmented leads. What types of content will resonate with each segment in their individual journey? Review your blogs, videos/webinars, case studies, emails, etc. and surface any touchpoints that might be missing.
- Prioritize making updates to existing content or creating new content that will be essential for the potential student’s decision.
Test your Email Automation Strategy
- Create a series of automated messages based on sharing the content you identified above.
- Build a control and experiment system in your CRM. For example, if your list has 5,000 names, mark 2,500 of them as a control group – they should receive the current email marketing (or none). The other 2,500 are our experiment and will receive the new lead nurturing campaign. Check in weekly to see which group is converting to an enrollment the fastest.
Lead nurturing isn’t new, but when done correctly, it works. As you plan marketing refreshes, prioritize lead nurturing as a critical strategy. With a well-executed nurturing program, you’ll not only generate more enrollments but also foster a positive brand perception among your prospects. In an increasingly competitive landscape, mastering lead nurturing can set your institution apart and drive long-term success.
Need some help thinking through your school’s lead nurturing strategy? Book a strategy call with us today.